Review, Tour & Giveaway: Because You Have To

Because You Have To
Because You Have To: A Writing Life

By Joan Frank
(University of Notre Dame Press, Paperback, 9780268028930, September 2012, 200pp.)

The Short of It:

Writers, true writers will appreciate the grit contained within these pages.

The Rest of It:

Sometimes you look for a book, and sometimes a book finds you. This is definitely one of those times where the book found me and the timing could not have been more perfect.

Is this a book about writing? Yes. Without a doubt, this is a book about writing but it’s not a “how to” and it doesn’t include useful tips on how to get your book published either. What it is, is a collection of essays about the act of writing. Specifically, the writing itself and what it means to be a writer.

Many writers struggle financially and although this is something that we immediately realize as fact, it’s not something that comes to mind when you think of becoming an accomplished writer. Yes, being able to pay the rent does affect your writing. The type of job you have affects your ability to write as well. Working a 9-5 job and then coming home to a family that needs you, also affects your ability to create. It’s obvious, but hearing Frank tell it like it is, is somehow refreshing and comforting. Hearing her admit it somehow makes it okay and yes, writers everywhere will feel validated and empowered that there are others out there working through the same challenges.

Frank also goes into the mechanics of writing and the need for stillness. Creating art in an age where technology is buzzing all around us is a distraction in and of itself. Her essay titled The Stillness of Birds speaks to this and while I was reading it, I was distracted no less than ten times by my daughter who happened to be watching The Brady Bunch while writhing around on the floor. Yes, I could relate.

Frank also admits, that writing can be a lonely life. It’s not something that you share with everyone. Some will want to critique you, others will want to commiserate with you but most of all, her fear of being a whiner is what keeps her from discussing the early stages of her work. The act of writing brings with it, a healthy dose of misery. Who knew?

Reading this book was like taking a much-needed time-out. I’ve longed for a career in writing and feel that I have stories to tell, but the act of actually writing them down has been a dark cloud hanging over my head for as long as I can remember. Marriage, family, work. These are the things that continue to throw me off-balance and they are the very same things that Frank talks about in this book. Granted, she does not offer advice really, but what she does is tell you that you write, because you have to, not because it’s something you dreamed of doing. You write because physically, you’d be sick if you didn’t. Writers write, whether they get paid for it or not. That is the distinction and it’s been a bit of an eye opener for me.

I love that the collection is both honest, yet positive and hopeful. Clearly, Frank’s love of writing outweighs the misery that tends to go along with it. This is a book to pull out every time you are experiencing frustration of your own.

If this sounds like a book for you, enter my giveaway for a chance to win your own copy! Details below.

Joan Frank

Joan’s website.

Joan’s TLC tour stops.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


This giveaway is for one copy of Because You Have To and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on November 21, 2012 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

To enter the giveaway, please click here. (This giveaway is now closed!)

27 thoughts on “Review, Tour & Giveaway: Because You Have To”

  1. I’ve had ideas floating around in my head for ages, but like you, family and work seem to get any free time I have. This book sounds perfect.

    1. I can tell a good story but my writing isn’t all that great. There, I said it. I’ve been a technical writer for so long that it’s become mechanical and boring and it seeps into other writing projects (unfortunately). The only time I really broke the mold, was when I was in school, writing for a grade. I need the structure.

  2. A room of one’s own and all that, right? I think this book might also be applied to many other creative tasks we want to take one step further (painting, for instance).

    1. Exactly! She discusses writing as an art but these essays could be applied to art in any form. Now I really want to read her novels.

  3. This book sounds lovely! I love books about writing too, and while I had convinced myself for the last several years I was meant to be a reader, I’m feeling that pull into writing again.

  4. Great review — you totally nailed what captured me as well — I was really surprised at how much resonated in this volume — it felt timely to my own authorial aspirations and in terms of being a book blogger/reader.

    1. It’s a book that I think I will re-visit often, just for inspiration if not for validation. I psych myself out all the time. I created a writing space for myself. The kids helped me put it together and it sits…empty.

  5. This does sound like a very comprehensive look at the life of a writer, and I am glad that it gave you a lot of insight into the personal aspects of the craft. I am not sure if it’s the book for me or not, but I did really appreciate your thoughtful and honest review. Thanks for bringing us the realities of what it’s like to be a writer.

  6. Some of your review reminds me a bit of Ann Patchett’s “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir of Writitng and Life,” which also makes some great points. You would probably like it if you are interested in writing. The book you read sounded helpful to you.

  7. I have been drawn to your writing from the very first time I visited your blog. Your words seem to be effortless, but now I see that even though it appears that way, it isn’t so. Keep writing, Ti!! I will read it!! 😀

  8. You know, I don’t have the burning need to write. Perhaps that is why I’ve never really sat down and tried to make it happen. This sounds like a really good insight into the life of a writer. Excellent reivew!

  9. I love books like this. Stillness. I get that. It’s what I need in order to write well. So glad you wrote this one up.

  10. I like books like this–much more than the tips on how to get published. The drive to write is a deep one and carving out time while keeping the rest of life holding together is a bond we all share.

  11. My favorite chapter might very well have been “Be Careful who you Tell.” I don’t publicize my blog for the very reasons Frank discusses in the chapter. I keep blogging/writing separate from my personal online spaces and even from friends…and ESPECIALLY my students. I’m not hiding anything; I just am literally AFRAID that too much attention will ruin the space I’ve so carefully created for ME. I honestly don’t want to know what most of the “real” live people in my life think anyway. Also, I’m reminded of how personal writing it…how much of this particular art is so attached to who we are. A timely reminder for me as I grade essays…no wonder students freak out when they receive essays covered with red ink :/

    1. That chapter hit me as well. There are very few people that I know personally that know about my blog. It’s my little escape and I don’t care to share it with everyone. I am always surprised when someone mentions it.

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